Q: We all know that Texas football is a powerhouse
is Texas a powerhouse in other ways?
|A: Texas is a
powerhouse of energy--oil, natural gas, coal, water, wind, solar,
and even landfill gas!
natural gas (hydrocarbons) are the payload for thousands of
geologists and engineers in Texas. Oil companies drill wells and pump
hydrocarbons from underground rocks and send it to refineries. Refineries
turn the oil into energy-packed products, such as gasoline, which
powers our cars, trucks, and boats. Natural gas is sold to electricity
companies, which in turn is sold to us as electricity for heating,
cooling, and providing power our homes and buildings.
and mining engineers locate and mine coal, which is sold to power
plants. Coal energy is similar to oil and gas energy in that it has
to be burned to produce energy. Burning coal provides a source of
energy includes hydroelectric power from lakes, rivers, oceans, and
technologies that use saline water. Typically, water dammed in a lake
or reservoir is released through turbines and generators to produce
electricity. In Texas, reservoirs are commonly built for municipal
water supply and flood control systems; hydroelectric production is
has been used in Texas for more than 100 years! There are more than
80,000 windmills in Texas today, harnessing the energy of wind at
wind farms and on private property. Wind power turns the kinetic energy
of the wind into mechanical or electrical energy. Mechanical energy
generated from the wind was used thousands of years ago in Persia
to pump water from the ground. Today's wind farms are located in windy
places near utility power lines. The electricity that is generated
on windmills is then either added into the electricity grid or stored
energy helps our plants to grow and to dry our clothes hung out on
a clothesline, among other things. To capture and store this energy
we use photovoltaic cells (PVs), which soak up the sun's energy and
generate electricity. PVs were first developed for the U.S. space
program. They are now being used to power a wide array of products:
telecommunication equipment, school crosswalk warning signs, calculators,
refrigerators, gate openers, railroad switches, weather stations,
emergency power generators, water pumps, homes, offices, outdoor signs,
lighting at bus stops
is a small yet valuable resource, turning a potential nuisance into
a usable product. Several Texas landfills, including Sunset Farms
Landfill in Austin, are capturing and using landfill gas. What is
landfill gas? Half of all gases emitted by a landfill is methane,
or natural gas. This natural gas can be used in the same way as hydrocarbon
natural gas: to heat our homes and buildings, is sold and transported
via natural gas pipelines, and is used for electric power generation.
|For more information
about solar, wind, and landfill gas, visit the Texas State Energy
Conservation Office Website at www.InfinitePower.org.
Information about hydroelectric power is available on the Texas Renewable
Energy Industries Association's Website at www.treia.org/hydro.html.
Q: How can you get iron balls in the ground
that DON'T come from outer space?
In the Cretaceous Period when dinosaurs lived in Texas, a great sea
spread across the central United States area (of course, there was
not a United States or a Texas then). It was very shallow and warm.
Muddy, chalky lime formed on the bottom.
|There were zillions
of fossils, and you can find them almost everywhere around the Austin
decaying organic matter in a fossilizing bone or shell caused iron
and sulfur to combine together and form a fossil made of marcasite
(like pyrite or fool's gold). Sometimes the marcasite crystals would
keep growing into a big, spiny ball in the mud. As the mud hardened
into limestone, the spiny balls oxidized and became the same thing
as common rust.
Today, you can
dig in the soil next to Austin area streams and find these iron
oxide balls, as big as a golf ball or even bigger. They look dark
brown and lumpy, just like a meteorite, but they come from the ground
and not from outer space.
Did all prehistoric "Texans" live in tipis?
|A: Not everyone!
Some early villagers in East Texas constructed thatched houses. Adobe
houses were built by prehistoric peoples in far West Texas. Early
dwellers of the Trans-Pecos region selected natural rock shelters
for their homes. In certain areas of the Texas Panhandle, villagers
actually built rock slab houses--some on top of tall mesas! Many prehistoric
groups in Texas were nomadic, moving from place to place, searching
for plant and animal foods. These nomads built temporary hide- or
brush-covered shelters that could be constructed and dismantled quickly.
Hide-covered tipis were commonly used by nomadic Plains Indian tribes
during historic times.
excavations help archeologists to learn about the way prehistoric
peoples lived in ancient times. Recognizable ruins, clay-lined floors,
storage pits, and "post molds" (small circular stains in
the ground where posts once stood) are the types of clues that archeologists
encounter at prehistoric house sites. The written accounts of early
European explorers and colonists also mention the types of shelters
used by the Native Americans they encountered.
Q: Where are the oldest chimneys in Central Texas?
A volcano can be described as a chimney (or vent) that connects a
reservoir of magma buried deep in the earth with the surface. Increases
in pressure cause the magma to travel to the surface through this
"chimney." In the late Cretaceous Period (80 million years
ago), an active volcano known as Pilot Knob erupted violently in the
then shallow sea that covered Central Texas. Pilot Knob was one of
around 75 volcanoes of the same age that were scattered around Central
Texas from Waco to Austin, to San Antonio and Del Rio. All of these
volcanoes have been extinct for millions of years.
|Pilot Knob is
located just east of McKinney Falls State Park in southeast Austin.
All that remains of this now extinct volcano is a low hill and ash
beds from the volcanic eruptions interbedded with the limestones.
Pilot Knob is located on private property but can be viewed from roads
around the park.
Q: Who lived in Texas before the Texans?
are scientists who study the lives of people that lived in the past.
Prehistoric archeologists study people who lived before Europeans
"discovered" the new world and began creating a written
history. Historic archeologists study people that lived during a time
when written documents were being created.
have found evidence that people were living in Texas over 10,000 years
ago. These people are known as Paleoindians. Although their living
sites have been found along with some of the tools they used, and
occasionally, burials containing the remains of some of these people,
little is known about their daily life except that they lived close
to the land in hunting and gathering groups.
have identified the tools, living sites, and garbage, known as artifacts
or cultural materials, of groups from the Paleoindian times through
the historic period when people of European ancestry began to settle
in Texas. Although the Spanish claimed Texas as part of Mexico, they
only settled a small part of the state. They established missions
and there were a few Spanish ranchers that moved into the area. The
French traded with the Native Americans that lived in east Texas but
they were not successful at settling the land either. Historic archeologists
study the remains of these groups in order to learn how they lived
and how they interacted with each other.
individuals began to settle in Texas shortly after 1800, European
settlement began in earnest in 1824, but these people were not Texans,
they were considered Mexican citizens because the area still belonged
to Mexico. By 1835 these people had become uncomfortable under the
control of the Mexican government and by 1836 they had rebelled and
Texas became a republic. The area had been known as Tejas previously
and the rebels called themselves Texians. Today people who live in
Texas call themselves Texans, but the first Texans were here over
10,000 years before us.